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TELEVISION & RADIO | SHOW TRACKER

Another nuclear threat? Yawn

Even on `24' it's hard to sustain the intensity. This season seems like a repeat of the past.

March 21, 2007|Patrick Day | Times Staff Writer

Is it possible you can save the world in a single day only so many times before they all start to seem the same?

Jack Bauer might be able to find ways to stay creatively engaged in his job, but for the at-home viewer, this season of "24" is beginning to suffer from deja vu.

Once again the United States faces a domestic nuclear threat, and on Monday night it was once again revealed that a traitor was working inside the Counter Terrorist Unit's ranks. After going toe-to-toe with an exploding podium, President Palmer's prognosis is looking bleaker with each passing episode, which could make him the show's fourth sitting or former president to be assassinated (assuming former President Logan did indeed die after last week's stabbing episode). Jack somehow has to keep the United States from launching a potentially disastrous attack on a foreign country, something he halted once already in Season 2. Even CTU chief Bill Buchanan (James Morrison) must have been feeling some fatigue as he wearily reminded Jack of his fourth-season diplomatic problem with the Chinese when Jack got into a similar situation at the Russian consulate.

Also on Monday night, Jack learned of the death of his fifth-season girlfriend, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver). Poor Jack, it seems like it was just yesterday that he was grieving over his wife's murder at the end of Season 1. According to the CTU file, she died in a car accident while looking for Jack in China, but the details aren't important. Whether her death was a setup for a future story line or just another reason for Jack to become even more intense, it seemed like one too many tragedies heaped on his already turbulent personal life.

And shudder for the undetermined status of Jack's daughter, Kim Bauer (Elisha Cuthbert). She hasn't been seen lately, but wasn't it previously established that she was getting a place in Valencia -- ground zero for the nuclear blast?

Part of the problem is that "24" has so successfully gone where lesser series fear to tread that anything less than jaw-dropping shock seems like a cop-out. When Jack managed to prevent the drone aircraft loaded with a nuclear weapon from detonating over San Francisco on Monday night, it was a letdown. They'd already dared to blow up one American city this season, so why not two?

Day Six has not been without its bright moments, though, most of them courtesy of big-name guest stars.

As the steely vice president with an itchy trigger finger, Powers Boothe walks a fine line between full-on villain and overzealous patriot. He may indeed be behind the assassination attempt on President Palmer, but it's just as possible he could end the day as another of Jack's presidential buddies.

He's not the bad guy you love to hate; you hate that you love him.

Just as effective but conspicuously missing is James Cromwell as Jack's dad. His introduction early in the day was exciting and ripe with potential, but after establishing himself as the least-nurturing TV dad since Al Bundy, he quickly disappeared. The producers should ax a few of the vice president's advisors and spring for a few more Cromwell guest spots.

As for Rick Schroder as the chokehold-happy new CTU field ops chief, who let this psycho in the building?

Schroder's character is easily as psychologically unstable as Bauer, prompting some questions about CTU hiring practices. You'd think the unit would have become a little more stringent after previous staffing problems, but obviously they haven't learned from their mistakes.

As we've seen from this frequently rehashed season of "24," those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

patrick.day@latimes.com

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Show Tracker follows television series through their highs and lows.

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